September Issue 2012

By | Art | Arts & Culture | Published 12 years ago

When I met artist Ayesha Siddiqui at her solo show at Koel gallery, I asked her to tell me a little bit about her work on display.

“Well the exhibition is called Hidden Agenda, so how could I tell you about it if the agenda is hidden?” she replied.

Her artist’s statement, composed solely of tiny boxes, is even more enigmatic than her response.

Which just leaves us with the paintings themselves — nearly two dozen abstract expressionist works made with oil paints, acrylics, metallic pigments and chemicals among other mediums.

The expressive style of painting is emotionally intense — rebellious even. The bold spatters of colours and the thick blots of paint evoke images of the artist aggressively brandishing her brush across the canvases. As with most abstract expressionist paintings, the process of creating is as important as the creation itself.

This style of art also calls for spontaneity and a good eye for editing.

“The process is very intuitive. I know by looking at the work when it is finished,” Ayesha explained. She makes it sound easy. Some of the works are composed of several layers of paint and in some cases, even squares of paper are tiled upon each other. There is a risk of overdoing the canvases, of getting lost with all the different mediums at work, but it never happens. Ayesha, although young, is evidently a skilled artist with six gold medals from the University of Punjab to her name.

And her work isn’t just composed of paint drips and blobs. Thickly-laid lines, almost evoking cage-like structures in some of the paintings, also make an appearance. The organic dabs of paint — which at times, you can even see, have chemically reacted with the other mediums used on the canvas — are therefore contrasted by the geometric elements. Hidden Agenda primarily consists of blacks and gray with interjections of bold splashes of yellow or red and strokes of iridescent silver pigment.

Upon seeing the collection in its entirety, the effect is overwhelming, even violent. On one canvas, the paint drips suggest an expanding spherical form, almost like an explosion. In others, the forms on the canvas suggest swirls of black smoke. But upon closer inspection of the canvases, a different side emerges. There are tiny geometric shapes, much like those on her artist’s statement, engraved on many of the works. Delicate flecks of colour are scattered across the canvas. And in the areas where Ayesha used the wet-on-wet technique of painting, one colour gently undulates into another. Looking at the paintings up close is a completely different, even visceral, experience.

Ayesha might be tight-lipped about her work, but the paintings with all their colours and textures and forms, speak for themselves.

This review was originally published in the September issue of Newsline.

Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.